Tune In and Drop Out

This week the Time magazine cover story asks are kids too plugged in?

Quoting research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the article says that even though our kids are not spending more time with electronics (already at 6.5 hours a day), they are becoming so adept at multitasking that they now pack in 8.5 hours of media exposure into that 6.5 hours.

What does that mean? According to many of the sources quoted in the Time article, this means that kids are becoming more physically distant from other people. As Sudbury, Massachusetts, psychiatrist and author Edward Hallowell says

“you are not having family dinner, you are not having conversations, you are not debating whether to go out with a boy who wants to have sex on the first date, you are not going on a family ski trip or taking time just to veg. It’s not so much that the video game is going to rot your brain, it’s what you are not doing that’s going to rot your life.”

I have to admit, there have been occasions where I’ve been working away on my laptop downstairs only to receive an email from my wife in the office upstairs. At first, it was quite funny and we used to joke about it, but I can see it becoming more common in our house as our kids get older. And I don’t think instant communication or mediated communication is such a bad thing when used correctly. A phone call from my wife in the driveway asking me to come out and help her bring in the groceries doesn’t seem unreasonable.

I think the bigger point of the article is that we tend to overschedule not only our lives, but also our kids lives. We have somehow collectively lost our ability to do nothing – to sit in silence and think. We somehow believe that, unless we are doing a dozen things at once we are not being productive. I know I am very guilty of this. I always have more to do in my head than there are hours in the day and, as a result, I tend to feel stressed about everything that is not getting done. It is not a good example to set for my girl.

I know that, with a 2 year old toddler bouncing around, it has become harder and harder for me to do nothing with her and be at peace with it. I somehow think that, unless she is doing something, she isn’t being stimulated and I am somehow stunting her development. But maybe it’s okay for her to do nothing. Maybe it’s okay for her just to wander around the house by herself for awhile without me directing her to try this puzzle or sing this song.

I think tomorrow I’ll just let her wander on her own and lead the day. And if we get bored, maybe we’ll sit in the backyard and see if we can find some early spring ladybugs in the garden. Maybe tomorrow we’ll just skip that playgroup and see what the day brings.

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